Bigelow Aerospace has two inflatables on orbit (Genesis I and Genesis II) with plans for attaching the BEAM module to the ISS. These are precursors to a full scale station, based on multiple (3?) BA-330 full size modules.

The plan is for solar panels at the ends of the BA-330 modules. They seem like they will have lower power output than the ISS, based simply on size. (Assuming efficiency is vaguely similar, even though the panels will be 20 years newer). Ignoring the power issue for a moment, I am curious about the heat rejection problem.

In space, paradoxically, it would seem, getting rid of heat is one of the harder problems. Between the 90 min day/night cycle, the temperature cycling, and the amount of heat humans and equipment put out, getting heat OUT of the station is a major design issue.

The ISS has some very large radiators, the ammonia cooling loop system, that have made the news in past years for a variety of problems. (MMOD on one of the radiatiors, ammonia leaks, failed pumps, etc).

How does Bigelow plan to handle the heat rejection issue? None of the images I have seen, show obvious large radiators.


1 Answer 1


Relevant information can be found in this patent of the company: https://www.google.com/patents/US6481670

The plan seems to be to circulate coolant in tubes positioned between the inflatable layers.

The tube segment substantially enclose the spacecraft, and in particular, the critical layers that are desired to be protected. This protective barrier provides a thermal heat sink, temperature equalization, and a waste heat rejection system, that can moderate the temperature extremes encountered by spacecraft. In addition, dependent on the fluid selected, substantial radiation shielding can be provided that can protect the entire spacecraft.

Quote from the patent abstract, emphasis mine.

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    $\begingroup$ Also, as the patent notes, if they use water as a coolant it can provide radiation shielding. Thus solving two problems at once. $\endgroup$
    – krisoft
    Jul 16, 2014 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ Great answer. So the tubes would be made of polymers so that they can stretch and bend as the module inflates? $\endgroup$
    – Stu
    Nov 10, 2014 at 17:13

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